Complaining and the brain

If there is one thing I have little tolerance for it is complaining. Not simple venting, or asking for feedback regarding a problem, but the kind of problem-focused ranting that does not lead to solutions.

Not long ago I heard a piece on NPR that reinforced the reasons I dislike complaining. Apparently, research has proven that complaining causes the brain to be slowly rewired.   There is similar research on ways practicing mindfulness can positively reshape the brain. However, when it comes to complaining, the changes are negative. According to the research, the regular behavior of complaining reduces our ability to handle future situations, process information and think deeply or critically. Basically, we get dumber the more we do it!

My default response to people who complain frequently is to listen and acknowledge without agreeing. But I think it’s time to be more direct. The only way to throttle the complaining is to choose a response that has an impact on the complainer’s behavior.  

Rather than becoming callous and uncaring, I believe the response can be both direct and create a light hearted moment. Something like, “Sorry, but if I engage in this too long, I might get dumber, so let’s talk about a solution or something else.” 

I plan to try this. Will you join me in taking an active role in preventing brain damage?

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